Part of the HNBOC mission for this little gathering was to see which boats could and couldn't get into Stret Lock, and where and how they stuck. All the locks on this canal are narrow (except the wide ones, if you know what I mean) but Stret it particularly so, having been rebuilt to accomodate boats 6'10" wide, snugly. HNBOC are very active on preserving the ability to navigate the canals and in my view this is very valuable for everyone, not just owners of historic boats. If we can get through, then everyone should be able to; if navigations start to get narrow, or shallow, or obstructed, historic boats are the early warning system. Someone on CWF a while back asked if it was really so important to maintain canals to accomodate seventy foot boats (as the issue under discussion was mooring near bridgeholes, this included modern seventy footers too), as these represent a small minority of canal users. I wonder if he will be saying the same when it's no longer possible to navigate his sixty foot boat...
So, I was very keen to contribute in whatever small way I could to this project, which meant leaving at lunchtime yesterday in the company of Bath, Aquarius, Petrel and Aegir (not an historic boat but a lovely old one with beautiful aged varnished paintwork). As usual we were the slowest by a mile, and got stuck a few times. Below Retford the problem was mostly mud, but up here there are more rocks and other hard impedimenta. We stopped at Osberton at eight, and set off again at quart past seven this morning.
Bath and Petrel (and Aegir) know they can get through Stret and were planning a jaunt to the head of navigation (so far); Aquarius is on the Chesterfield for the first time, I think. We had been up the year before last on Warrior, so sort of knew what to expect, though you only ever remember a fraction of it. Now though we were six inches deeper and the canal was six inches shallower. And we were a couple of inches wider, of course.
Of the boats that tried last week, Thea was unable to get into Morse lock, the one before Stret, so we knew this would be the first challenge (apart from the bends, the lack of water and the wind, of course). We were leading the pack this morning and so were the first to try. At first it looked as if we would get in; the lock looked no different from the previous ones and Chertsey was sailing in quite smoothly - so much so that I thought I should
slow down a bit so I engaged reverse... and stopped dead, three quarters of the way into the lock and unable to move forwards or backwards. We looked all around and there was no obvious sticking point, suggesting that it was most likely below the waterline. There were no crunching or grinding noises either; it was all very gentle and graceful. After walking round stroking our chins and taking photos for a bit, Chertsey was extricated by flushing some water through. We reversed back to the nearby winding hole, turned round and set off back to Retford, duty done. I don't think our sticking in Morse was entirely conclusive, and suspect we may have been stuck on the bottom rather than the sides, but it seems that discretion was the better part of valour as we heard later that Aquarius successfully got into and ascended Morse, made an unsuccessful attempt at Stret, but then got firmly stuck in Morse on the way back down, necessitating sending for the support boat (Petrel) and a Tirfor.
We had enough adventures of our own on the way back as it was very, very windy. Mostly this wasn't a problem directly, but if we did get out of position, it made it hard to redeem the situation. It was also very tiring and drying of the throat, leaving me croaking my despair at points. Now of course, when we got stuck (which happened twice, seriously) there was no friendly travelling companion in the form of Bath, and no welcome sight of Dave approaching on his bike. We were on our own. Both times we managed, eventually - each took a good half hour and the second time we jettisoned a fair proportion of Chertsey's 100 gallon fresh water supply. I'm not sure that made the crucial difference as the level in the canal seemsd to rise slightly too, but as that water weighs a ton in total it might have helped. It's quite a simple process anyway, just turn on the taps and after a while, switch on the bilge pump.
We did get back eventually of course, exactly twelve hours after setting off this morning. It was a rainy night and a damp early morn so I lit the stove. The day soon brighetned up but I kept the fire going and finally made a plum and apple crumble with the plums Val gave us and the apples from Izzy. It cooked as we went along and was done to perfection when we tied up. I'm so stiff now I can hardly sit up to write this. Obviously I am getting rusty and need to do more boating!
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